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|Poppies and Wheat - part 02--- English Stories
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|Author:||Pooja [ Thu May 20, 2010 7:13 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Poppies and Wheat - part 02--- English Stories|
"You mean Lafayette, dear," whispered Jenny quickly, as the lady smiled and bowed bewildered by the queerly pronounced French, but catching the poet's name.
"I know what I mean; you needn't trouble yourself to correct and interrupt me when I'm talking," answered Ethel, in her pert way, annoyed by a smile on the face of the girl opposite, and Jenny's blush at her rudeness and ingratitude. She regretted both when Jane explained the matter afterward, and wished that she had at once corrected what would then have passed as a slip of the tongue. Now it was too late; but she kept quiet and gave Miss Cholmondeley no more chances to smile in that aggravatingly superior way, though it was very natural, as she was a highly educated girl.
Thinking of this, and many other mistakes of her own from which Jane tried to save her, Ethel felt a real remorse, and walked silently on, wondering how she could reward this kind creature who had served her so well and was so anxious to get on in her hard, humble way. The orders were all given now, the shopping nearly done, and Mademoiselle Campan, the elderly French lady who boarded at their Pension, was always ready to jaunt about and be useful; so why not give Jane a holiday, and let her grub and study for the little while left them in Paris? In a fortnight Uncle Sam was to pick up the girls and take them home, while the Homers went to Rome for the winter. It would be well to take Miss Bassett back in a good humor, so that her report would please Mamma, and appease Papa if he were angry at the amount of money spent by his extravagant little daughter. Ethel saw now, as one always does when it is too late to repair damages, many things left undone which she ought to have done, and regretted living for herself instead of putting more pleasure into the life of this good girl, whose future seemed so uninviting to our young lady with her first season very near.
It was a kind plan, and gratified Jenny very much when it was proposed and proved to her that no duty would be neglected if she went about with the Homers and left her charge to the excellent lady who enjoyed chiffons as much as Ethel did, and was glad to receive pretty gifts in return for her services.
But alas for Ethel's good resolutions and Jenny's well-earned holiday! Both came to nothing, for Ethel fell ill from too much pastry, and had a sharp bilious attack which laid her up till the uncle arrived.
Every one was very kind, and there was no danger; but the days were long, the invalid very fretful, and the nurse very tired, before the second week brought convalescence and a general cheering and clearing up took place. Uncle Sam was amusing himself very comfortably while he waited for his niece to be able to travel, and the girls were beginning to pack by degrees, for the accumulation of Ethel's purchases made her share a serious task.
"There! All are in now, and only the steamer trunk is left to pack at the last moment," said Jenny, folding her tired arms after a protracted struggle with half a dozen new gowns, and a perplexing medley of hats, boots, gloves, and perfumery. Two large trunks stood in the ante-room ready to go; the third was now done, and nothing remained but the small one and Jenny's shabby portmanteau.
"How nicely you have managed! I ought to have helped, only you wouldn't let me and I should have spoilt my wrapper. Come and rest and help me sort out this rubbish," said Ethel, who would have been dressed and out if the arrival of a new peignoir had not kept her in to enjoy the lovely pink and blue thing, all lace and ribbon and French taste.
"You will never get them into that box, dear," answered Jenny, gladly sitting down beside her on the sofa, which was strewn with trinkets of all sorts, more or less damaged by careless handling, and the vicissitudes of a wandering trunk.
"I don't believe they are worth fussing over. I'm tired of them, and they look very mean and silly after seeing real jewels here. I'd throw them away if I hadn't spent so much money on them," said Ethel, turning over the tarnished filigree, mock pearl, and imitation coral necklaces, bracelets, and brooches that were tumbling out of the frail boxes in which they came.
"They will look pretty to people at home who have not been seeing so many as we have. I'll sew up the broken cases, and rub up the silver, and string the beads, and make all as good as new, and you will find plenty of girls at home glad to get them, I am sure," answered Jenny, rapidly bringing order out of chaos with those skilful hands of hers.
Ethel leaned back and watched her silently for a few minutes. During this last week our young lady had been thinking a good deal, and was conscious of a strong desire to tell Jane Bassett how much she loved and thanked her for all her patient and faithful care during the six months now nearly over. But she was proud, and humility was hard to learn; self-will was sweet, and to own one's self in the wrong a most distasteful task. The penitent did not know how to begin, so waited for an opportunity, and presently it came.
"Shall you be glad to get home, Jenny?" she asked in her most caressing tone, as she hung her prettiest locket round her friend's neck; for during this illness all formality and coolness had melted away, and "Miss Bassett" was "Jenny dear" now.
"I shall be very, very glad to see my precious people again, and tell them all about my splendid holiday; but I can't help wishing that we were to stay till spring, now that we are here, and I have no teaching, and may never get such another chance. I'm afraid it seems ungrateful when I've had so much; but to go back without seeing Rome is a trial, I confess," answered honest Jane, rubbing away at a very dull paste bandeau.
"So it is; but I don't mind so much, because I shall come again by-and-by, and I mean to be better prepared to enjoy things properly than I am now. I'll really study this winter, and not be such a fool. Jenny, I've a plan in my head. I wonder if you'd like it? I should immensely, and I'm going to propose it to Mamma the minute I get home," said Ethel, glad to seize this opening.
"What is it, deary?"
"Would you like to be my governess and teach me all you know, quietly, at home this winter? I don't want to begin school again just for languages and a few finishing things, and I really think you would do more for me than any one else, because you know what I need, and are so patient with your bad, ungrateful, saucy girl. Could you? would you come?" and Ethel put her arms round Jenny's neck with a little sob and a kiss that was far more precious to Jane than the famous diamond necklace of Marie Antoinette, which she had been reading about.
"I could and I would with all my heart, if you want me, darling! I think we know and love each other now, and can be happy and helpful together, and I'll come so gladly if your mother asks me," answered Jenny, quick to understand what underlay this sudden tenderness, and glad to accept the atonement offered her for many trials which she would never have told even to her own mother.
Ethel was her best self now, and her friend felt well rewarded for the past by this promise of real love and mutual help in the future. So they talked over the new plan in great spirits till Mrs. Homer came to bring them their share of a packet of home letters just arrived. She saw that something unusual was going on, but only smiled, nodded, and went away saying,--
"I have good news in MY letters, and hope yours will make you equally happy, girls."
Silence reigned for a time, as they sat reading busily; then a sudden exclamation from Ethel seemed to produce a strange effect upon Jenny, for with a cry of joy she sprang up and danced all over the room, waving her letter wildly as she cried out,--
"I'm to go! I'm to go! I can't believe it--but here it is! How kind, how very kind, every one is to me!" and down she went upon her own little bed to hide her face and laugh and cry till Ethel ran to rejoice with her.
"Oh, Jenny, I'm so glad! You deserve it, and it's like Mrs. Homer to make all smooth before she said a word. Let me read what Mamma writes to you. Here's my letter; see how sweetly she speaks of you, and how grateful they are for all you've done for me."
The letters changed hands; and sitting side by side in an affectionate bunch, the girls read the happy news that granted the cherished wish of one and gave the other real unselfish pleasure in another's happiness.
Jane was to go to Rome with the Homers for the winter, and perhaps to Greece in the spring. A year of delight lay before her, offered in such a friendly way, and with such words of commendation, thanks, and welcome, that the girl's heart was full, and she felt that every small sacrifice of feeling, every lonely hour, and distasteful duty was richly repaid by this rare opportunity to enjoy still further draughts of the wisdom, beauty, and poetry of the wonderful world now open to her.
She flew off presently to try to thank her good friends, and came back dragging a light new trunk, in which she nearly buried her small self as she excitedly explained its appearance, while rattling out the trays and displaying its many conveniences.
"That dear woman says I'm to send my presents home in the old one by you, and take this to fill up in Rome. Think of it! A lovely new French trunk, and Rome full of pictures, statues, St. Peter's, and the Colosseum. It takes my breath away and makes my head spin."
"So I see. It's a capital box, but it won't hold even St. Peter's, dear; so you'd better calm down and pack your treasures. I'll help," cried Ethel, sweeping about in her gay gown, almost as wild as Jane, who was quite upset by this sudden delicious change in her prospects.
How happily she laid away in the old trunk the few gifts she had ventured to buy, and those given her,--the glossy silk, the dainty lace, the pretty crystals, the store of gloves, the flask of cologne, the pictures and books, and last of all the sketches which illustrated the journal kept so carefully for those at home.
"Now, when my letter is written and the check with all that is left of my salary put in, I am done. There's room for more, and I wish I'd got something else, now I feel so rich. But it is foolish to buy gowns to pay duties on, when I don't know what the girls need. I feel so rich now, I shall fly out and pick up some more little pretties for the dears. They have so few, anything will be charming to them," said Jenny, proudly surveying her box, and looking about for some foreign trifle with which to fill up the corners.
"Then let me put these in, and so be rid of them. I shall go to see your people and tell them all about you, and explain how you came to send so much rubbish."
As she spoke Ethel slipped in several Swiss carvings, the best of the trinkets, and a parcel of dainty Parisian ties and sashes which would gladden the hearts of the poor, pretty girls, just beginning to need such aids to their modest toilets. A big box of bonbons completed her contribution, and left but one empty corner.
"I'll tuck in my old hat to keep all steady; the girls will like it when they dress up, and I'm fond of it, because it recalls some of my happiest days," said Jenny, as she took up the well-worn hat and began to dust it. A shower of grain dropped into her hand, for the yellow wheat still kept its place and recalled the chat at Schwalbach. Ethel glanced at her own hat with its faded artificial flowers; and as her eye went from the small store of treasures so carefully and happily gathered to the strew of almost useless finery on her bed, she said soberly,--
"You were right, Jenny. My poppies are worthless, and my harvest a very poor one. Your wheat fell in good ground, and you will glean a whole stack before you go home. Well, I shall keep MY old hat to remind me of you: and when I come again, I hope I shall have a wiser head to put into a new one."
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